Now there is a limit to how many questions you can ask under the right to information law.
The government has introduced a 500-word limit for RTI applications under new rules notified last week and decided to make applicants pay for the postage too if the charges exceed Rs 50.
The Right to Information Rules, 2012 has been in the works for 21 months that saw civil society accuse the government of curbing its right through the backdoor.Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had taken up negotiations with the government on behalf of the civil society. As part of a compromise formula, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), however, has agreed to give up the move to bar applicants from raising more than one subject.
It was part of the same deal that the NAC agreed to the 500-word limit but emphasised that applications exceeding this limit should not be rejected. The July 31 notification, however, does not explicitly incorporate this disclaimer, leaving applicants at the mercy of government departments.
Incidentally, the NAC had declared less than four months ago that the new rules “have been put in abeyance”. But the Prime Minister’s Office – which had been holding on to the file since January – appears to have cleared the restrictions.
Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan, who had pushed the original proposal as the central minister in 2010, has implemented a similar set of “retrograde” rules in the state.
The new rules also make it mandatory for poorest citizens to produce a BPL certificate every time they seek information to get fee exemption.
The only positive news is an enabling provision to let applicants pay online if this facility is available with public authorities. Once this facility is set up when the postal department launches online postal orders, NRIs would be able to use the transparency law.